Faces on Campus: Jeff VandenHoek
Jeff VandenHoek has been with the university’s College of Business since 2007, but recently he’s making a big impact outside the classroom.
Promoted last year to director of business relations, it’s VandenHoek’s job to connect business leaders with the university and students with local businesses, all in an effort to provide students with the real-world experience employers so highly value.
“What drives us is engagement,” explains VandenHoek. “A student at a potter’s wheel is engaged with the clay. A student in nursing is engaged when they’re learning how to put in an IV. A business student is engaged when they are hands-on, working on a project.”
VandenHoek creates these “hands-on” experiences in a variety of ways. He has helped bring industry titans like Bob’s Red Mill founder Bob Moore and Holland Inc. chairman Tom Mears to campus to interact with students in the classroom and critique proposed business projects. He also teaches an MBA business seminar class where students engage in the marketplace via visits to companies like Boeing.
But VandenHoek is best known among students for his substantial Rolodex of business contacts – many George Fox alumni. It’s a powerful tool he uses to connect students with the internships they need to elevate their resume above their competitors long before they enter the job market.
“I think I have the coolest job in the College of Business,” says VandenHoek. Listen to him beam with pride as he lists off a few of his recent success stories and you can tell he believes it.
One such story involves a student who was interested in a highly competitive internship at the well-known footwear company KEEN. The first thing VandenHoek did was to check his LinkedIn account, a professional networking tool he often encourages students to use. “I didn’t have any direct connections there, but I saw that one of our MBA alums had a friend who worked there,” recalls VandenHoek.
So he sent his connection a text message and told the student, “Watch this. . . . If he’s by his phone and not in a meeting he’ll get back to me in 30 minutes or less. Within three minutes he responded.” As it turns out, VandenHoek’s connection knew several high-ranking employees at KEEN. He read the message, looked up at the student and asked with a smile, “So, do you want to talk to the graphic design manager or the CFO?”
While not all connections are so easily made, VandenHoek’s passion for his job keeps him thinking of creative ways to bring together the worlds of education and business in order to generate new and unique opportunities for the students he serves.
“What gets me out of bed in the morning is supporting people,” he says. “And supporting people in the job that I have is connecting people, connecting opportunities. That’s what drives my business, and that’s what drives me.”